Rio Tinto protests

Miners to protest Black Lung in Brisbane tomorrow

Two hundred coal miners will be protesting in Brisbane tomorrow to call on the government to do more to support jobs and tackle Black Lung disease.

CFMEU Mining and Energy Division Queensland District President Steve Smyth said coalmine workers would be joined by community members, family, and other allied workers to demand the government take the threat of Black Lung disease seriously.

“It is unacceptable that there are coalmine workers still going to work every day not knowing if they have Black Lung disease, or if their mine is keeping dust levels below legal limits,” Mr Smyth said.

“The Minister has until this point treated this as a bush issue and has not developed a complete and acceptable response, so we are bringing the issue to his doorstop.

“We’ve spent a lot of time talking to the Government about this issue, but the time for words is over – it is now time we saw action.

“We’ve got 200 coalmine workers flying in from Mackay, Rockhampton, Emerald and Moranbah to join thousands of others who have been let down by the governments inaction on this deadly issue.”

Mr Smyth said the government has let workers down by not taking stronger action, sooner.

“All Australians, especially those who work in dangerous conditions like mine workers, need to have confidence that the regulatory system can protect them, and that the health system will support them,” Mr Smyth said.

“A lack of independent monitoring of dust levels in coalmines and companies being able to self-report has led to dust levels being well above legal limits in many Queensland mines.

“We hoped that a Labor Minister would be more willing to act decisively to end the danger, but so far his response has been lacking, with only a narrow review with a narrow response that doesn’t even address dust levels in coal mines.”

The union is calling on the government to:

  • Require dust levels to be monitored by an independent body and reported on a public website, which identifies dust levels at individual mines by name and company.
  • Ensure suitably qualified radiologists review all x-rays taken of coal mine workers and adopt a world’s best practice standard for checking chest x-rays
  • Fund a training programme in industry best practise for coal dust controls.
  • Immediately clear the backlog of 150,000 outstanding worker medicals.
  • Require mining companies to extend healthcare and screening for Black Lung disease to workers in retirement.
  • Identify other at-risk workers by randomly sampling those with 15+ years service in the mining industry and performing checks
  • Fund a community information and outreach program to encourage people in mining communities to be checked.

The protest comes in the same week a Middlemount miner with the disease had his workers compensation claim approved.

Mr Stoddart had been unable to work since November last year due to his diagnosis, and had already used up his sick and annual leave.

“As far as the level of (compensation), we’ll have to see. At least it’s a good start, it gets him paid and allows him to recoup entitlements he had to lose,” Mr Smyth told APN.

Mr Smyth said the claim was a milestone for the union’s ‘Dust to Dust: Make Black Lung History’ campaign.

“It demonstrates that if you get pneumoconiosis… they’re (workers compensation) accepting that it’s a compensable disease,” he said.

Mr Stoddart is one of six coal miners who have been diagnosed with the potentially fatal respiratory disease.

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